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Educational policy analysis archives
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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 8, no. 45 (August 30, 2000).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c August 30, 2000
Social constrution of school failure : leadership's limitations / Merylann J. Schuttloffel.
x Research
v Periodicals.
2 710
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
1 773
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
4 856


1 of 18 Volume 8 Number 45August 30, 2000ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2000, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education The Social Construction of School Failure: Leadership's Limitations Merylann J. Schuttloffel The Catholic University of AmericaAbstractA case study highlights barriers encountered by an urban school principal in implementing reforms within the context of the K entucky Educational Reform Act. By comparing the competing expectations of Miller's (1995) five capitals and Ianneconne and Lutz's (197 0) dissatisfaction theory, the case study dramatizes that Site-Based D ecision-Making councils exemplify a policy decision that ignores t he practical realities of distressed schools. The lack of congruence between policies and the school reality makes implementation of school refor m predictably unsuccessful. Introduction Widespread press coverage of the march for civil rights in the 1960's opened the public's eyes to center city poverty and rural regions with third world living conditions. These images made


2 of 18believers in the American tenets of justice and equ ality attack the status quo (Sergiovanni, Burlingame, Coombs, & Thurston, 1999). Social activ ism compelled idealistic reformers to the optimistic assumption that public policy could dict ate a more just society (Kantor & Lowe, 1995; Spring, 1998, 1997, 1976). Public schools became th e laboratory to experiment in the social reconstruction of society (Corbleth & Waugh, 1995; Levine, Lowe, Peterson, & Tenorio, 1995; Fullan, 1993; Steele, 1992, 1990). During the intervening years many education al reformers have attempted to translate their social justice assumption into policies that impact practice. Unfortunately, at the same time, the urban community reality frustrated reform progress. The failure of numerous reforms left dismal images of urban life that continued to march across the television screen or create a mental picture with grim statistical data (Sarason, 1997, 1995, 19 90). As recently as the 1998-99 school year, well-intentioned policy mandates continued to fall short of a real solution to the social construction of failure that plagues too many stude nts in urban public schools (Clark, 1999; Comer, 1998). These same schools house the majority of America's poor and minority students. Kentucky Educational Reform Act and Site-Based Decision-Making Councils On June 8, 1989, the concluding opinion of the Supreme Court of Kentucky ordered the state's school system dismantled. Justices expanded the case from an examination of the state's school-finance distribution to the public school sy stem's limits. At a recent celebration, Former Chief Justice Robert Stephens recalled, "I realized as I was writing that we weren't talking about a few things that needed to be fixed; we were talking about the whole thing." The shock wave that followed the court's ruling inspired the 1990 Kentu cky Education Reform Act. The impact of KERA continues to shape policy for public schooling and education in Kentucky into the next decade. Too often the very policies created to impr ove urban schools and their educational possibilities prevent school improvement. Site-Base d Decision-Making councils are such a policy example (David, 1995-1996). An SBDM council consist s of teachers, administrators, parents and community members. The limitations of Site-Based De cision-Making councils and their contribution to the unrelenting failure of some urb an schools, ties directly to policy mandates created by state policy makers with little understa nding of the urban school reality (Fraser, 1997). The argument that parent involvement is a n ecessary component for school improvement has been generally accepted since Coleman's report intr oduced the concept of social capital. Many others have expanded this concept to confirm their position that parent involvement is the key to school improvement. Those policy makers who include d the SBDM council requirement in KERA believed in the engagement of parents and community members in school improvement. Students in high achieving schools seem to affirm their beli ef and proponents enumerate the parents' contributions to the schools. However, fairness als o requires proponents to delineate the characteristics those parents bring with them to th e school: moderate to affluent income, advanced education, productive community ties, and an unders tanding of the political elements of the district's school system. The opposing argument builds a case proposi ng that a difference exists between a general plea for parent involvement and the benefits implie d in particular parentschool-community relationships. Including positions for parents and community members on a Site-Based DecisionMaking council does not insure school improvement. The urban school reality is more complex than that approach considers. Comer and Haynes (199 1) suggest that schools alienate low income parents from school involvement by ignoring their p ressing basic needs. When parents feel ill-equipped for informal volunteerism it is not li kely these same parents are candidates for high-stakes governance positions (Cavaretta, 1998; Gismondi, 1999).


3 of 18 Guskey and Peterson (1995-1996) enumerate t he weaknesses inherent in the site-based decision-making model to include: the power problem, the implementation problem, the ambiguous mission problem, the time problem, the expertise problem, the cultural constraints problem, the avoidance problem, and the motivation problem. Each of these problems contributes to the e xternal pressures principals experience as they initiate change within their building by developing a capable parent and community constituency. Unfortunately, these caveats received little consid eration within the Kentucky model for Site-Based Decision-Making councils. By the beginning of the 1998-99 school year sufficient evidence had accrued to demonstrate that the KERA reforms were not taking hold at the a nticipated pace. Kentucky had already committed ten years to implementation. Although the results were unimpressive, reformers continued to believe that modifications of the plan and more time invested would lead to the intended improvements. By postponing deadlines for the schools' assessment until 2014, a new cycle begins in 2002.Research FrameworkFive community capitals: Miller's argument. In his text, An American Imperative, Miller (1995) builds a theoretical argument for th e social construction of minority student failure. Ac cording to Miller, the lack of specific parent and community resources, which he defines as human capi tal, social capital, health capital, financial capital, and polity capital aggravates the urban sc hool reality. Human capital is the knowledge and skills required to function in a technologically co mplex society like the United States in the twenty-first century. Social capital is "the norms, the social networks, the relationships between adults and children that are of value for the child ren's growing up"(Coleman, 1990, p. 36). Health capital is the ability to sustain good health throu gh nutrition and preventative care. Financial capital is the income and savings that provide the ability to purchase other resources and advantages. And polity capital refers to the benefi ts that the community at large provides for all its members. Polity capital acknowledges the interdepen dent nature of society today. Grounding his theoretical rationale in the non-school urban reali ty, Miller intends to impact school practice. Miller argues that due to weak economic exp ansion and multiple social hardships, the urban school community requires the school to be a condui t of the five capitals for its children and their families. Miller emphasizes the school's role in de veloping parent-school-community relationships within the urban school community that are "capital -adding" for students. His capital resources, existing as they do outside the student, demonstrat e benefits beyond the student's control that further motivate students to achieve. The practical implication of Miller's theory is that individual student effort, while necessary and important, is n ot a sufficient contribution to dramatically raise en masse student underachievement. Capitals that re st outside the student are also integral for student success. Clearly, distressed urban schools suffer fr om their lack of success and spiraling failure. Disappointing student performance results fuel the metaphorical autopsy of the urban school


4 of 18(Shirley 1997, p.4). The public's perception of the urban school portrays a place to be fixed, restructured, or perhaps even abandoned. This negat ive perception of the urban school reality has changed little in thirty years with urban schools l agging behind in nearly all quantitative assessments of educational reform progress. Dissatisfaction theory: The Ianneconne and Lutz arg ument Like many state reform policies, the centra l character in charge of KERA's school reform is the building principal. Principals are often credit ed with the successful reform of their school (Blase et al. 1995; Goldring & Rallis, 1993; Murphy & Louis, 19 94; Peterson & Valli, 1994; Speck, 1999). From this leadership assumption the i ndividual school site has emerged as the crucible of educational reform. This scenario place s the building principal in a position of dwindling legal authority, diminishing traditional power, and increasing academic and social responsibility for students. Principals who have su ccessfully improved their school may provide a model, but improvement models do not easily transfe r within a locally driven educational system. Reforms that might prove successful in one school o r district may confront multiple restrictions within another school, such as an incompatible scho ol culture, a reluctant parent community, or minimal teacher support. Within these inconsistent settings, it seems that each principal builds school reform with little anticipation of success u ntil it transpires within that very building. In the current school reform environment, c rediting successful change to the action of a building principal may be as misleading as the assi gnment of failure solely to the same principal. Ianneconne and Lutz (1970) pointed to the profound effects external forces exerted upon school change in their dissatisfaction theory. Their dissa tisfaction theory states that members of a school community initiate change based on their dissatisfa ction with the school's performance. The dissatisfaction theory implies a level of political sophistication on the part of the school community. Informed parents and community members m ust know what school services are potentially available to them. Too often a parent's tacit beliefs and personal experiences with schooling and learning drive their expectations. Weakening the dissatisfaction theory for ur ban schools, those parents whose negative experiences as students color their school activism as adults. Evaluation of curriculum, extra-curriculum, and leadership qualities are typi cally outside the experiences of most urban school constituents. Parents who are aware of possi bilities for school improvement may not know how to manipulate the system to make their expectat ions for the school a reality. Further, those parents who are more politically proficient routine ly withdraw to another school. Ianneconne and Lutz's proposal that superin tendents can only function as change agents within a cast of supportive external players points to the ineffectiveness of school reform that fails to acknowledge the school's external environment (P eshkin, 1978; Smith et al. 1971, 1986, 1987, 1988). With site-based management, the urban princi pal's role is a political role, more similar to that of a superintendent under the traditional loca l school board. Summary Miller argues that the sources of support s tudents require for achievement are fundamentally lacking with the urban school community. He propose s that the urban school will continue to fail to raise student achievement unless an expansive su pport system prevails within the school community. Successful inner city Catholic schools p rovide evidence that supports Miller's theory (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993). Iannaconne and Lutz's dissatisfaction theor y rests on the premise that community members are capable of becoming change agents within the sc hool. Dissatisfaction with the school requires


5 of 18knowledge of a school's potential and the skills to initiate the needed change. As Miller suggests too often parents in disadvantaged communities do n ot have the five capitals within their adults so that parents are not capable of providing these cap itals for their children. Detailed descriptions of a distressed urban school help to illustrate the difficulties with sc hool reform, within a single district under state mandat ed reforms, that ignore the arguments of Miller, Iannaconne, and Lutz. The following case study prov ides a window to view assumptions made about school leadership and policy implementation i n an urban school (Ashbaugh, 1991; Hamel et al. 1993; Kowalski, 1991; Salter & Tapper, 1985). Johnny Flynn (pseudonym), principal of a Ke ntucky public middle school, plays the central character in this case study that portrays the urba n school reality. His school, John Adams Middle School (pseudonym), represents distressed urban sch ools operating under reform guidelines. Through his willingness to share the details of his school's context and his personal dilemmas with school improvement, Flynn hopes to influence the pu blic's perception of the urban school reality. He further believes that by shaping public percepti ons, he ultimately helps his students to receive the capitals they require to improve their academic performance. As Flynn's case unfolds, the significant connection between the public's percept ions of the urban school reality and the impact of these perceptions on his school's reform efforts becomes clearer.The Case of Johnny Flynn and John Adams Middle Scho olThe current reality. Like many southern cities in the 1970s, the urban site of John Adams Middle School desegregated by a court ordered ruling. Socially pa inful and financially costly, busing students still balances the African-American and "other" racial ca tegories within the district's schools. Today these two categories simplistically betray the many enrolled minority groups. Principals acknowledge that some past district programs were i nstituted to slow earlier "white flight" trends. In the current reality, poverty and class issues of ten displace previous racial barriers, but John Adams Middle School still reflects the public's per ception that a low performing school links poverty and race. Johnny Flynn has been principal of John Ada ms Middle School throughout the decade of state reform implementation. He questions numerous policies designed to reform schooling. Flynn admits that his school has been unable to meet perf ormance goals, in part, due to policies that allow schools and classrooms to re-segregate by rac e and class (Orfield & Yun, 1999). Accountability and school choice are featur es of Kentucky's state reform. These two very public items interact to complicate life for Johnny Flynn. Test scores at John Adams flutter below their goal just as the recruiting environment withi n the district reaches a competitive frenzy. The district's modified choice plan allows parents to s eek out the most appropriate school program for their students. The result is that individual schoo ls use a variety of marketing strategies to attract students. Flynn readily admits that recruitment tim e amplifies his awareness of the school's problem with public perceptions. Publicized informa tion about John Adams's test results certainly constrains recruitment of high achieving students. Some parents openly discuss their reluctance to enroll their students in John Adams due to low test score results and the school's negative reputation for performance. Public perceptions and recruitment. The district's arrangement of specialty pro grams, magnet schools, and traditional schools, places a neighborhood school, such as John Adams Mi ddle School, at a distinct recruitment


6 of 18 disadvantage. Specialty programs and magnet program s (e.g. Science, Math & Technology) are open to neighborhood minority children, but are rou tinely filled with white middle and upper class students who have parents with the knowledge to man euver their way through the district's application process. Typically, any parent who take s advantage of the choice options enrolls a student who meets grade level achievement expectati ons, and the parent is actively involved with the student's education. Losing these students is a particularly excruciating drain on John Adams Middle School. The enrollment situation wreaks doub le jeopardy as the top students are lost as contributors to the school's overall assessment sco res and as positive role models to the rest of the student body. The parent is also lost as a contribu tor and a positive role model within the school community (Cavaretta, 1998). These enrollment incid ents multiply, making recruitment extremely frustrating for Flynn and his staff. There exists a certain cynicism at an urban school like John Adams that their enrollees are "what's left over." This situation creates low morale that ripples through the school's faculty, staff, and students. When Principal Flynn responds to questions about his "choice or specialty" program at John Adams, he jokes that he is the "special education m agnet." Flynn does not intend his comment to be disrespectful to these students, he simply ackno wledges that John Adams has a high proportion of special education students. John Adams enrolls t he second highest percentage of special education students in the district (2nd out of 24 m iddle schools). The school with the highest percentage of special education students is an equa lly distressed school. The school categories in Table 1 include an urban school (John Adams), a neighborhood/home school and a traditional school. A neighborhood or "home" school is the school where the district assigns a student by home address. A magnet school attracts students district-wide with a special program. Traditional s chools offer a program espousing enhanced home-school partnerships, regular homework, appropr iate behavior, and high academic performance. The popularity of the traditional prog rams caused the district to increase the number of these schools in recent years. Option or special ty programs, traditional, and magnet programs are open to all students within geographical attend ance zones. The data in Table 1 indicate the discrepanc ies in special education enrollment between the various categories of schools. John Adams represent s the distressed urban school as the data in Table 2 will help verify. The percentages of studen ts assigned to the"resource" or "self-contained" category significantly impact the disbursal of reso urces. Special education students who are in the "resource" category are able to attend regular clas ses but receive supplemental special education services.Table 1 Placement Rates for Special Education (Resource) and Regular (Self-Contained) ClassroomsTotal % %Black Resource %Other Resource Total % Resource %Black SelfContained % Other SelfContained % Total SelfContained John Adams17.3% 3.3% 6.3% 9.6% 3.7% 4.0% 7.7% Neighborhood11.4%2.0%7.2%9.2%1.2%1.0%2.2%Traditional1.5%0.5%1.1%1.5%0.0%0.0%0.0% By comparison, those students who are assigned to s elf-contained special education classrooms


7 of 18 require more intense services. A self-contained spe cial education classroom has a limited number of students per teacher and requires a teacher lice nsed in special education. There is no clear explanation why John Adams has a higher percentage of these self-contained classrooms, but one possible reason is the available space. Often distr ict decisions about a program's location reflect the availability of space rather than consideration of other factors. The numbers dramatically illustrate the difference in student population bet ween the selective traditional program, the home-neighborhood school, and the distressed urban school. Principals readily admit that special educa tion programs are high maintenance, demanding attention to the legal requirements, teacher and ai de licenses, and parent communication/meetings. A public perception in the district that the studen ts at John Adams were unusually "bad" aggravates a difficult recruitment situation that i ncludes all personnel: teachers, aides, cafeteria, and custodial staff. Flynn admits his frustration w ith having too many substitute teachers or aides in the special education classrooms or, even worse, long term substitute teachers who might lack the appropriate training. Flynn's situation is not unique and unfortu nately reflects national trends. On June 24, 1999, the Education Commission of States, a non-profit gr oup that helps policy makers work to improve student learning, announced the group's upcoming fo cus on the need to attract competently qualified teachers for special education classrooms in "hard-to-staff" schools. The organization received a grant from the DeWitt-Wallace Reader's D igest fund to finance the initiative, Focusing State Policy on High-Quality Teachers for Hard-to-S taff Schools. Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer, the 1999-2000 ECE chairman, states," Comm on sense tells us, and research confirms that the number one factor in determining how well students do in school is the teacher" (McElhinney 1999, p.1). Time that Flynn invests wrestling with spec ial education issues is time taken away from other dimensions of school reform. His colleagues at the traditional or even the neighborhood schools designate that time to building the curriculum, sup ervising teachers, working with community leaders, or developing parent leadership. Flynn's d aily reality is not the same. Principals of a distressed school, like Joh n Adams Middle School, deal with a student population that arrives at school with life experie nces from a reality far distant from preschool and elementary school experiences that assist in academ ic preparation. Flynn describes his students and his school with care. I think the most challenging thing would be the thi ngs that our kids----what they come with, baggage that they bring with them primarily. They come from single parent homes, coming from homes where the parents are not involved that much with the schools, coming from homes, there's not a whole lot of money in homes, and also I would say their academic achievement is low at the time in which they come to you and you have to turn all those around.Table 2 Percent of Students on Free & Reduced Lunch1996-971997-981998-99 John Adams80.35 %79.28 %80.36 %Neighborhood56.67 %57.91 %57.96 %Traditional15.42 %15.62 %21.30 %


8 of 18 Data on Free and Reduced Lunches serves as a standard indicator of poverty within a given school population. The data could be even more accu rate if "Free" and "Reduced" were disaggregated. This would enable a clearer distinct ion between the John Adams public housing population and that of the predominately working cl ass neighborhood school. Public perceptions and accountability. Forty-five years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the 1999 Civil Rights Project report for Harvard University, "Resegregation in Am erican Schools," points to accountability measures, such as high stakes testing, that "punish students in inferior segregated schools, or even sending more children to such schools while simulta neously raising sanctions for those who do not achieve at a sufficiently high level" (Orfield and Yun, 1999). John Adams Middle School reflects this trend with its loss of performing students to other schools while the student body assigned to John Adams sinks into deeper poverty and social dis array. Measurable disparities in income do not com pletely capture the disadvantages of the urban school. Miller's description of the non-school-base d disadvantages of urban minority students that resonate with the John Adams' student population. T hese disadvantages profoundly affect student potential before students enter school. These disad vantages are almost impossible for the school to remedy alone. To further illustrate Flynn's point a bout the students that John Adams enrolls, Flynn shares the results of the sixth grade reading place ment test. "We only had 14 out of 300 some odd 6th graders that were reading on level. Urban princ ipals recognize that reading is the fundamental skill that must be improved. Reaching grade level p erformance appears to be an overwhelming task considering the number of students that requir e assistance. These students' success on the state's assessment test looms near impossibility. Table 3 KRIS Assessment ScoresBaselineGoalIndex John Adams27.234.527.6Neighborhood30.237.233.8Traditional53.658.256.3 KIRIS has been Kentucky's version of a high stakes assessment test. The test results over the years of KERA reform have been disappointing. Durin g this anniversary, the assessment tools and processes underwent examination for revisions, incl uding the subsequent evaluative rankings. The data in Table 3 reflect a system used prior to the revisions. A school's testing performance is public news, but often remains a source of confusio n to the public. Parents question how a school ranks "in decline" while their academic teams hold high honors in state competitions. Principals are weary of explaining that ranks were determined solely by the KIRIS assessment. The school's scores must be moving toward the goal score to be c onsidered improved. Intertwined with the testing debate are spe cial education issues. Marking the current anniversary, some Kentucky legislators promote the increase in fourth grade reading scores as a sign of KERA's impact. Critics counter that in 1998 fewer special-education students were tested than in 1994, making the gains an illusion if the t esting population has changed. Mark Musick, the chairman of the National Assessment governing board believes Kentucky students performed


9 of 18 better this year even with the testing population a djustments. Others have remained critical stating that there will never be any way to know the real r esults. Musick reminds state officials that no test is incontrovertible, in spite of careful monit oring. During the decade of KERA, Congress changed federal law to mandate the testing of stude nts with disabilities as a condition for federal aid for special education. Under these conditions d istrict pressure for improved testing performance increases for Flynn and his teachers. A gain, the high numbers of special education students at John Adams weigh heavily on Flynn's eff orts for school improvement. In spite of state and district efforts to f unnel supplemental programs and extra funds into distressed schools, assessment tests still fail to demonstrate adequate progress. John Dornan, executive director of the Public School Forum of No rth Carolina, a Raleigh-based group for school reform, states that, "It's possible very acc urately to predict the schools most likely not to succeed in high-stakes tests." Dornan explains furt her that in significant school reform the school provides a value-added environment. In other words, the school does bring an effect to achievement. The challenge for urban schools is tha t considerable value must be added, or considerable disadvantage alleviated, for students to experience a substantive benefit from their educational experiences. One area that highlights the disconnection between reform expectations at John Adams Middle School and life in the urban community is th e suspension rate. The suspensionrate and distribution display the contradiction between the context of schooling and the reality of the urban student's life. Principal Flynn believes that one o f the chief barriers to successful student achievement that he regularly encounters is the lac k of student self-discipline: The kids seem to not show a lot of self-discipline so I think that is one of the major issues that we deal with. Flynn implies that self-discipline impacts student performance in a variety of ways including their ability to learn to read. Self-discipline is an exa mple of a skill that students must have to be successful in school behavior and academic performa nce. Unfortunately, the urban community environment does not assist students to appropriate structure and discipline into their lives. This lack of self-discipline then handicaps the student at school. The suspension rate of John Adams in 1996-9 7 was nearly the equivalent to the suspension of every student in the school (student enrollment = 9 21). The 1997-98 figures show a drop of about 30 % at John Adams and the neighborhood school (Tab le 4). Table 4 SuspensionsWhite Male White Female BlackMale Black Female Total John Adams18770202118577Neighborhood9718739197Traditional837119 Suspensions add to the inconsistent academi c preparation some students receive. And in turn, these students are unable to reach an appropriate s core on the state's assessment. Behavior that requires a suspension adds to a chaotic classroom e nvironment that does not support learning for classmates either. Too often young AfricanAmerica n male students consider a suspension a sign


10 of 18of defiance to a white establishment. Too often sch ool personnel fear a suspension serves as preparation for more extreme forms of antisocial be havior including crime. The alternative, the in-house suspension, also accounts for time lost fr om the classroom, but an in-house suspension is the school's attempt to keep students within the bu ilding where there might be some positive influence. Site-Based Decision-Making as Tool to Assist Reform Efforts Within the urban school reality, how does t he Site-Based Decision-Making model assist the principal to improve the school's accountability re sults? The descriptions of John Adams Middle School and the principal's daily life attempt to co nnect the urban school reality with theoretical rationales for the policy on Site-Based Decision-Ma king (SBDM). Flynn speaks about his difficultly in facilitating a SBDM council to meet its intended purpose within his school community. Also, we don't get the community leaders involved w ith the schools, I'd say in school which they have in the suburbs, and then the attitu de of some of the parents. Maybe they weren't that successful in school. School left a bad taste in their mouth so they tend to think the same way and that attitude is dis played in their kids when they come to the urban school. Flynn's word ring similar to Burns' positio n that some parent's previous negative experiences in school impacts their interactions with the schoo l and contaminates their child's viewpoint of school and learning. Just as the John Adams' studen ts suffer from their school's negative public image, the parents also bear the burden of the publ ic's negative perception of adults who wallow in poverty, single parents who receive welfare checks, reside in public housing projects, and are unemployable. Many of John Adams' parents feel inti midated by school personnel with their "school speak" and some parents are openly hostile, shaped by their own negative experiences with teachers and schooling. Flynn must organize the SBDM council, fill the positions, train the members, and then administer the policies created by his local Site-B ased Decision-Making council. Urban principals struggle to develop more sophisticated interactions within the school's Site-Based Decision-Making council members but they are often thwarted by the sheer lack of resources. Johnny Flynn's daily tasks at John Adams Middle Sch ool demonstrate the gap between good intentions as policy and the reality of the urban s chool. Site-based decision-making councils are the practical venue for parents to become involved with the policy decisions for John Adams Middle School. Closing Reflections Supporters and critics of Site-Based Decisi on-Making muster convincing arguments. On one side, the concept of SiteBased Decision-Making co uncils remains a worthy element of school reform. Community leader and parent participation i n policy decisions for their local school seems reasonable. On the other side are urban schools like Jo hn Adams, with principals like Johnny Flynn, who add his Site-Based Decision-Making council to a lon g list of activities that take his time and energy and are not easily implemented within the ur ban school community. Side-Based Decision-Making councils are pre dicated on the assumption that the parent and community membership will provide the means to acqu ire non-school resources that advance student performance. The urban school, due to its i nherent characteristics including poverty,


11 of 18minority membership, and lack of political acumen d iminishes the power of the SBDM council to assist the urban school improve achievement. This f law in the Site-Based Decision-Making model remains over-looked due to the apparent success of the model within other socioeconomic strata. The naive assumption remains that by manipulating ( because they are not necessarily increased) resources at the school level, the urban school wil l catapult to a competitive level. An understanding of the urban school realit y makes it clear that non-school capitals also require enhancement. In order for the SBDM's contri bution to reach the maximum, the public's perception of the urban school must be expanded to include its capital deficient community. These augmented capitals will develop the requisite condi tions to dramatically improve student academic performance. The Site-Based Decision-Making model genera tes its power and strength from the various capital-resources parents, community members, and s chool personnel bring to the school(Cavaretta, 1998; Gismondi, 1999; Comer & Hay nes, 1991). The flaw in the Site-Based Decision-Making model for the urban school is the v ery lack of these capital-resources within the community's membership. Related considerations. Several side issues emerge from an observat ion of the effects of the Site-Based Decision-Making model on a distressed urban middle school. First, there is the issue of school leadership. A local Site-Based Decision-Making coun cil lacks the broad view of the district. Local SBDM council members seldom consider the advantages of changing the school's principal since they are so closely bound to the current leadership themselves. This is particularly true in distressed urban schools where parent, and perhaps novice teacher participants, often lack experience in assessing leadership quality. Members are often suspicious of a new individual from outside their community. In turn, under the current SBDM model, a pr incipal is unlikely to attempt to force a change in leadership by applying to another school. A princip al bears the same image difficulties that students carry. Consequently, a principal is reluct ant to risk credibility with their current school b y applying for another position. Should a principal m ake application to another school, and if the principal was unsuccessful during the hiring proces s and had to return to the current school, the faculty, staff and parents might interpret those ac tions as disloyal, contaminating future interactions. Under the SBDM model, seeking a new p rincipal position is a very difficult situation for any principal to politically finesse. Typically the urban principal is left to await some other cue, perhaps from the central district office, for any possibility of changing schools. Ultimately, the instigator of principal change is the superinte ndent. Oftentimes a building level leadership change is a necessary requirement for school change Second, within the SBDM council, energy and interest focuses on the members' local school. This myopic approach handicaps distressed schools t hat require input in resources and expertise from other schools or the broader district communit y. Challenging a local SBDM to feel social responsibility for other children in the district, not enrolled in their local school, is a difficult endeavor. But, if students in distressed communitie s must rely on local resources, their plight seems an inevitable social construction of school f ailure. Third, other policies such as the modified in-district choice plan further disadvantage distressed urban schools by allowing positive contr ibutors to the school to move on to healthier settings. The distressed school loses not only a po sitive role model in the student, but typically a parent who is a capable partner with the school. Th is "capital drain" creates problems similar to "white flight" in its effect on the urban school. P arents who are aggressive about their children's welfare should not be penalized for wanting to impr ove their situation, but the message is clear that a schools must be made effective or closed.


12 of 18Policy implications Returning to the arguments of Miller, Ianna conne, and Lutz, an analysis of John Adams Middle School reveals that the defect in the dissat isfaction theory for the urban school rests with the community's deficiency in Miller's five capital s. The assumption that the constituents of a distressed urban school will conclude that their SB DM council's membership is ineffective, or their principal is incompetent, or the district ina dequately represents their interests, is improbable It is unlikely that this dissatisfying situation wi ll motivate community members to become politically active or initiate a change in leadersh ip. Site-Based Decision-Making councils as the centerpiece of community participation in urban school improvement legislation like KERA require mo dification. Two issues impact the effectiveness of the Site-Based Decision-Making mod el on reform efforts at urban schools. First, the dissatisfaction theory implies a level of political sophistication on the part of t he school community. Parents and community members mus t recognize the lack of quality in their school's performance. Then, parents and community m embers must know how to manipulate the school system to provide services to increase the q uality. Too often the urban school community lacks business and industry leaders capable of exer ting power and political influence that produces positive results for their local school. Those pare nts who are aware of possibilities for school improvement, but do not know how to manipulate the system to make their expectations a reality, routinely withdraw. A second impediment to school reform at an urban school comes from the larger district community's lack of polity capital. Outsiders are r eluctant to initiate the substantive reforms necessary to dramatically improve urban schools. Th e perception that improvement at urban schools like John Adams will require a sacrifice fr om their school community is not attractive to those outside the urban school community. Most outs iders lament the state of affairs at urban schools, but this lamentation accompanies stated re lief that their children do not attend such a distressed school. Too many district constituents d o not consider distressed urban schools their school community's responsibility. This lack of com mitment to the common good seriously handicaps urban school improvement. The more politi cally savvy constituents of Flynn's colleague principals have left John Adams Middle School alone to maneuver out of its situation. At the core, the lack of political acumen b y the insiders at John Adams Middle School, and the fundamental lack of polity capital contributed by the outsiders in the district community, perpetuates the current situation. The lack of poli ty capital, an acknowledgment of the interdependent nature of the community, diminishes the urban principal's ability to accelerate urban school improvement. Autonomous Site-Based Dec ision-Making councils aggravate the development of the requisite polity capital by sust aining an "us/them" mentality. School autonomy, which was propagated as a virtue by KERA's school reform movement, has become a destructive vice. School reform has be come so idiosyncratic that an individual principal must compete for students, generate suppl emental funding, develop community relationships, preferably with generous businesses, and provide leadership for the school in the political arena of district politics. Principals fr om even modestly affluent school communities have multiple means to attack this situation. The reserv oir of parent resources (i.e. volunteer time, fund raising, political connections) make their Site-Bas ed Decision-Making council appear successful. The public perception of a school like John Adams i ncludes an implicit assumption that its deficient performance rests within the people livin g in the school community rather than within the negative capitals present in the school communi ty. The incriminating evidence might extend to beliefs in racial inferiority, "their" lack of effo rt and willingness to improve, or simply the obviou s characteristics of the community (i.e. minorities, single parents, low SES). The SBDM model requires the distressed urban school community to g enerate resources it does not have, and holds


13 of 18no one outside the school community responsible for the social construction of failure for urban students. Kentucky's Site-Based Decision-Making counc il attempts to assemble parents and community members together for the improvement of p ublic schooling. The concept of schoolparent-community involvement intends to generate th e positive attributes of Miller's capitals and bring them to the schoolhouse. Unfortunately, the f law in applying the Site-Based Decision-Making council model to the distressed urb an school is less with the concept than with a deceptive perception of the urban school reality. KERA's tenth anniversary and the on-going n ational attention to its reform initiatives provide an opportunity to modify or supplement the SBDM mod el for the distressed school context. The benefits of parent and community involvement should not be abandoned, but capital development requires a broader community responsibility for dis tressed schools. A comprehensive community focus that develops the capitals within the entire district, or perhaps even statewide, increases student improvement in all schools. School reform legislation that fails to tak e into consideration the distressed urban school reality creates a paradoxical environment for schoo l change. ReferencesAshbaugh, C. R., & Kasten, K. L. (1991). Educational leadership: Case studies for reflective practice New York: Longman Publishing Group. Blase, J., Blase, J., Anderson, G. L., & Dungan, S. (1995). Democratic principals in action: Eight pioneers Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc. Burns, R. (1993). Parents and schools: From visitor to partners. Washington, DC: The National Education Association.Cavaretta, J. (1998). Parents are a School's Best F riend. Educational Leadership 55 (8), 12-15. Clark, J. L. (1999). "KERA has failed across the bo ard." mentarydocs/ 618clark anti-Kera.htm. Coleman, J. (1990). Families and schools. Foundations of Social Theory Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 36.Coleman, J. (1966). Equality of educational opportunity Washington, DC: Office of Education. Comer, J. P. (1998). Waiting for a miracle New York: Plume Books. Comer, J., & Haynes, N. (1991). Parent involvement in schools: An ecological approach. The Elementary School Journal 91 (3), 271-277. Cornbleth, C., & Waugh, D. (1995). The great speckl ed bird: Multicultural politics and education policy making. New York: St. Martins Press.David, J. L. (1995-96). The who, what, and why of s ite-based management. Educational Leadership 53 (4), 4-9. Evans, R. (1999). The great accountability fallacy.


14 of 18Fraser, J. W. (1997). Reading, writing, and justice: School reform as if democracy matters Albany: State University of New York Press.Fullan, M. (1993). Change forces: Probing the depths of educational re form New York: The Falmer Press.Giannetti, Charlene C. & Sagarese, Margaret M. (1 998). "Turning parents from critics to allies." Educational Leadership, 55 ,(8) 40-42. Gismondi, D. M. (1999). Beyond the Bakesale Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.Golding, E. B., & Rallis, S. F. (1993). Principals of Dynamic Schools: Taking charge of cha nge Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc.Greenwood, G. E. & Parkay, F. W. (1989). Case stu dies for teacher decision making. New York: Random House.Guskey, T. R., & Peterson, K. D. (1995-96). The roa d to classroom change. Educational Leadership 53 (4), 10-14. Hamel, J., Dufour, S., & Fortin, D. (1993). Case study methods London: Sage Publications. Harp, L. (June 9, 1999). "Landmark education ruling turns 10." The Courier-Journal. 09///0609kera.html Hoy, W. K., & Tarter, C.J. (1995). Administrators s olving the problems of practice: Decision-making concepts, cases, and consequences. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Iannaconne, L. & Lutz, F. W. (1970). Politics, policy and power: The governance of publi c schools. Columbus, OH: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co. 4.htm 8.htm .htm 1.htm Kantor, H., & Lowe, R. (1995). Class, race, and the emergence of federal education policy: From the new deal to the great society. Educational Researcher, 24 (3) 4-19, 21. Kowalski, T. J. (1991). Case studies on educational administration. New York: Longman Publishing Group.Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America's schools (p. 54) New York: Crown.


15 of 18Levine, D., Lowe, R., Peterson, B., & Tenorio, R. ( Eds.). (1995). Rethinking schools : An agenda for change New York: The New Press. Lutz, F. W., & Merz, C. (1992). The politics of school-community relations New York: Teachers College Press, 7.McElhinney, Christie. (1999). ECE Receives Dewitt-W allace Reader's Digest Grant to Help Place Quality Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools." Miller, J. G. (1997). African American males in the criminal justice system." Phi Delta Kappan 78 (10), k1-k12. Miller, L. S. (1995). An American imperative: Accel erating minority educational advancement. New Haven: Yale University Press.Murphy, J., & Louis, K. S. (Eds.). (1994). Reshapin g the principalship: Insights from transformational reform efforts. Thousand Oaks, C A: Corwin Press. Orfield, G., & Yun, J. T. (1999). "Resegregation in American Schools," The Civil Rights Project, Harvard University. lrights/publications/resegre gation99.html Patterson, J. L. (1993). Leadership for tomorrow's schools. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Peshkin, A. (1978). Growing up American Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Peterson, K. D., & Valli, D. W. (1994). "Changes in School Governance and Principals' Roles: Changing jurisdictions, new power dynamics, and con flict in restructured schools." In J. Murphy & K. S. Louis (Eds.), Reshaping the Principalship: Insights from transfor mational reform efforts ( 219-236) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, Inc. Salter, B., & Tapper, T. (1985). Power and policy i n education: The case of independent schooling. London: The Falmer Press.Sarason, S. B. (1997). How schools might be governed and why. New York: Teachers College. Sarason, S. B. (1995). Parental involvement and the political principle: W hy the existing governance structure of schools should be abolished San Francisco: JosseyBass Publisher. Sarason, S. B. (1990). The Predictable Failure of School Reform. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Shirley, D. (1997). Community Organizing for Urban School Reform quote p. 4. Smith, L. M., Dwyer, D. C., Prunty, J. P., & Kleine P. F. (1988). Innovation and change in schooling: History, politics, and agency New York: The Falmer Press. Smith, L. M., Prunty, J. P., Dwyer, D. C., & Kleine P. F. (1987). The fate of an innovative school New York: The Falmer Press.Smith, L. M., Prunty, J. P., Dwyer, D. C. (1986). Educational innovators: Then and now New York: The Falmer Press.Smith, L. M., & Keith, P. F. (1971). Anatomy of educational innovation: An organizationa l


16 of 18 analysis of an elementary school New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Speck, M. (1999). The principalship: Building a learning community Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Spring, J. (1998). Conflicts of interests: The politics of American ed ucation. Boston: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Spring, J. (1997). The American school 1642-1996 New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. Spring, J. (1976). The sorting machine: National educational policy si nce 1945 New York: David McKay, Company, Inc.Steele, C. M. (1992). "Race and the Schooling of Bl ack Americans," Atlantic Monthly, (April) 68-78.Steele, S. (1990). The content of our character: A new vision of race in America New York: St. Martin's Press.AcknowledgmentThis research was supported by the Edna McConnell C lark Foundation.About the AuthorMerylann J. SchuttloffelDr. Merylann J. "Mimi" Schuttloffel is Assistant Pr ofessor of Educational Administration and Policy Studies at the Catholic University of Americ a. She has her Ph. D. from the University of Tulsa in Educational Administration and Research. H er research interests include reflective practice in leadership, innovation and school chang e, and the transformation of educational beliefs and practice. Comments may be sent to: Email: Copyright 2000 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is General questions about appropriateness of topics o r particular articles may be addressed to the Editor, Gene V Glass, or reach him at College of Education, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 8 5287-0211. (602-965-9644). The Commentary Editor is Casey D. C obb: .EPAA Editorial Board Michael W. Apple University of Wisconsin Greg Camilli Rutgers University John Covaleskie Northern Michigan University Alan Davis University of Colorado, Denver


17 of 18 Sherman Dorn University of South Florida Mark E. Fetler California Commission on Teacher Credentialing Richard Garlikov Thomas F. Green Syracuse University Alison I. Griffith York University Arlen Gullickson Western Michigan University Ernest R. House University of Colorado Aimee Howley Ohio University Craig B. Howley Appalachia Educational Laboratory William Hunter University of Calgary Daniel Kalls Ume University Benjamin Levin University of Manitoba Thomas Mauhs-Pugh Green Mountain College Dewayne Matthews Western Interstate Commission for HigherEducation William McInerney Purdue University Mary McKeown-Moak MGT of America (Austin, TX) Les McLean University of Toronto Susan Bobbitt Nolen University of Washington Anne L. Pemberton Hugh G. Petrie SUNY Buffalo Richard C. Richardson New York University Anthony G. Rud Jr. Purdue University Dennis Sayers Ann Leavenworth Centerfor Accelerated Learning Jay D. Scribner University of Texas at Austin Michael Scriven Robert E. Stake University of Illinois—UC Robert Stonehill U.S. Department of Education David D. Williams Brigham Young UniversityEPAA Spanish Language Editorial BoardAssociate Editor for Spanish Language Roberto Rodrguez Gmez Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico Adrin Acosta (Mxico) Universidad de J. Flix Angulo Rasco (Spain) Universidad de Teresa Bracho (Mxico) Centro de Investigacin y DocenciaEconmica-CIDEbracho Alejandro Canales (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma


18 of 18 Ursula Casanova (U.S.A.) Arizona State Jos Contreras Domingo Universitat de Barcelona Erwin Epstein (U.S.A.) Loyola University of Josu Gonzlez (U.S.A.) Arizona State Rollin Kent (Mxico)Departamento de InvestigacinEducativa-DIE/ Mara Beatriz Luce (Brazil)Universidad Federal de Rio Grande do Sul-UFRGSlucemb@orion.ufrgs.brJavier Mendoza Rojas (Mxico)Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicojaviermr@servidor.unam.mxMarcela Mollis (Argentina)Universidad de Buenos Humberto Muoz Garca (Mxico) Universidad Nacional Autnoma deMxicohumberto@servidor.unam.mxAngel Ignacio Prez Gmez (Spain)Universidad de Daniel Schugurensky (Argentina-Canad)OISE/UT, Simon Schwartzman (Brazil)Fundao Instituto Brasileiro e Geografiae Estatstica Jurjo Torres Santom (Spain)Universidad de A Carlos Alberto Torres (U.S.A.)University of California, Los

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